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Enrollment expected to increase in Washington County schools

December 12, 2007|By ERIN CUNNINGHAM

WASHINGTON COUNTY - Enrollment in Washington County Public Schools will continue to climb through at least 2013 despite the recent lull in the local housing market.

Officials who presented enrollment data Tuesday during a Board of Education meeting with the Washington County Commissioners said they expect the numbers to steadily increase, with the exception of a two-year decline in enrollment in the county's high schools. Assistant Superintendent for School Operations Boyd Michael says that slight drop and the relocation of portable classrooms to many area high schools might mean that officials could postpone building a new high school for several years.

There are 125 more students enrolled in Washington County Public Schools this year (21,692) than last (21,567). Those figures are based on enrollment from the start of each school year.

Based on housing data, the local birth rate and other criteria, Deanna Newman, a demographic consultant with Public Pathways Inc., said the expected enrollment in Washington County Public Schools in 2013 is 22,997 students.

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"The reality is that Washington County is going to grow," Superintendent Elizabeth Morgan said. "We all know that."

The majority of the increased enrollment this school year was in kindergarten through fifth grade, which increased by 64 students, according to data presented to the board and commissioners. Prekindergarten enrollment declined by seven students, and there were 60 more sixth- through eighth graders this year than last.

There also were 11 more high school students, according to the presentation.

There will be about 200 more students at the start of the next school year in the county's elementary and middle schools, Newman said. During the same year, predictions include a two-student decline in high schools. At the start of the 2009-10 school year, there are expected to be 39 less students in the county's high schools.

However, Newman said that around that time the housing market will begin to flourish, and in 2010 there will be a 147-student jump at the high school level.

"If these numbers are accurate, and if we place our portable (classrooms) at the high schools, we can delay the high school opening until 2013," Michael said.

County Commissioner Kristin B. Aleshire said he also was not convinced that a new high school is an immediate need for the county based on the information presented Tuesday.

School system officials have been asking the commissioners to consider possible sites for the school. They say that between 45 and 60 acres would be needed for the new high school.

Officials originally said that a new high school in the eastern part of Hagerstown was needed much sooner. Planning money for an "East City" high school still is included in a draft fiscal year 2009 budget request of the county, according to information provided Tuesday. In that $3.6 million planning request for the school, officials say they anticipate it opening in 2012.

The school system is asking the county for money to move about 18 portable classrooms from the county's elementary schools to where they are needed - high school campuses.

Michael said that shift will offer more classroom space, but is only a short-term solution to the overcrowding in the county's high schools.

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